Nail biting can be a difficult habit to break at any age. Here are some ways to help children overcome this annoying and potentially lifelong habit!
1) Try to figure out why your child is biting their nails
Nail-biting can often be a result of anxiety or nervousness, so observe your child and see when they are more prone to start biting their nails. Does their behaviour worsen when they are stressed or anxious? If it does, you will need to deal with the root of the problem first, by easing their worries and anxieties.
2) Explain why it’s a bad habit
Instead of insisting that your child stop biting his nails, sit down and talk to them about why it’s such a bad habit. Explain how fingernails can hoard germs and bacteria and how nail-biting transfers these germs to their mouth. Tell them that these germs may make them sick or cause infections, and they won’t be able to join in fun activities with their friends while they are recovering.
Some children are also not aware of how they look when they’re biting their nails. Placing a mirror in front of them when you catch them biting their nails will give them an idea of how unsightly it looks, and perhaps discourage them from continuing the habit.
3) Get rid of additional energy and relief stress
Exercising is a great way for kids to distress quickly. Try fun activities like jump rope, or even children’s yoga to calm your child down or get rid of pent up stress and energy. Another good way to relieve anxiety would be to give your child a stress ball or toy to play with every time they feel stressed out and want to bite their nails.
If the nail-biting is not a result of anxiety, try to distract your child whenever they start to bite their nails, by placing a healthy snack in their hands or by placing their hands in yours. Some children may bite their nails simply out of boredom, so it’s best to keep them occupied with a fun activity like painting or building blocks when they’re not being closely monitored.
5) Give your child kiddy manicures
Make sure your child’s nails are neatly trimmed and use an emery board to get rid of hangnails as well. Some children bite their nails to even out jagged nails or bite off painful hangnails, so keep fingernails properly trimmed may lessen the temptation for them to bite their nails.
6) Don’t embarrass your child
If you see your child biting their nails in public, don’t scold them or draw attention to the situation. Ideally, you should come up with a subtle signal, like a light tap on their wrist, to indicate that they should stop biting their nails. This way, you can remind them to stop their behaviour without embarrassing them and potentially causing more stress.
7) Reward progress
If you see your child biting their nails less often, reward their good behaviour with a small treat or an outing. Do praise them openly for their efforts, as children respond well to positive reinforcement. Breaking a habit is difficult at any age, and it’s important to reward perseverance.